Though ISIS has been expelled from the area, the “liberated” city of Manbij could be facing a major new battle, as the city’s overwhelmingly Arab population fears the Kurdish-dominated forces who captured the city are eyeing some major demographics shifts.
Locals report that almost immediately after “liberating” Manbij, Kurdish forces set fire to the civil registry and land registry buildings in the city, destroying records of who owns what property around the city. The troops are also preventing Arab and Turkmen residents who fled the fighting from returning, even though ISIS is gone.
The provincial head of the rebel umbrella Coalition for Revolution and Opposition Forces warned that it was “suspicious” that land documents were destroyed first, saying that the Kurdish YPG has followed a similar “ethnic cleansing and deportation policy” with some of its past gains.
At the same time, the YPG’s political wing, the PYD, has been very public about their interest in American left-anarchist Murray Bookchin’s writings, who was averse to the notion of private property, which raises the alternative possibility that this is the Kurds trying to implement a system in which the Manbij residents have no private ownership of land.
Either way, the capture of the city is likely to fuel more unrest among Arabs living under the rule of the Kurdish-dominated Rojava region, and add to the sense among many that they need to resist the US-backed Kurdish offensives, even if it means ISIS retains power.